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"Breaking Barriers: How to rise to Success Against Societal Expectations"

As a kid, I was driven to be the first in my family to go to university. Looking back, ultimately, I just wanted to be happy. Success to me, which felt unachievable, was about having my own family, to love and to be loved. Generally, success can be defined as the 'achievement of one's goals, aspirations, and desires, or the realisation of one's full potential'. It's a personal thing. Yet we get swayed by society's measures of wealth, recognition, or status. What about personal growth, happiness, and fulfilment in life? I understand what it's like to have the weight of society, culture, duty, and expectations on my shoulders. As a teenager I was expected to have an arranged marriage, I was expected to fit to my family's 'norms' which did not work for a British born Cockney Tamil like me. I was determined I would live my life and not the life expected of me.

Here are some tips to help prevent yourself from being swayed by society's expectations:

  1. Identify your values: Understanding what you value in life can help you identify what's important to you and what you want to prioritise. By knowing your values, you can make decisions that align with them rather than just following society's expectations.

  2. Define your own success: Take the time to reflect on what success means to you. Determine what you want to achieve in your personal and professional life and set goals accordingly

  3. Recognise the impact of social norms: It's essential to acknowledge the role that social norms and expectations play in your life. Realise that these norms are often shaped by the culture and history of a society, and they can be limiting or oppressive.

  4. Surround yourself with supportive people: Surround yourself with people who support you and your goals. Having a strong support system can help you stay focused on what you want and help you resist the pressure of societal expectations.

  5. Be mindful of your thoughts and actions: Practice mindfulness and self-awareness to become more conscious of your thoughts and actions. This can help you identify when you are making choices based on societal expectations rather than your own desires and values.

  6. Embrace your individuality: Embrace your unique qualities and strengths. Accepting and celebrating your individuality can help you build confidence in your own abilities and make choices that align with your authentic self.

  7. Learn the skill of assertive communication: Know how to communicate your wants and needs in an assertive manner. Assertiveness means standing up for your personal rights - expressing thoughts, feelings and beliefs in direct, honest and appropriate ways. Assertiveness enables us to act in our own best interests, to stand up for ourselves, and to express personal rights without disrespecting the rights of others. We cannot control other people's responses but we can feel proud of expressing our own wants and needs.

  8. Challenge your own biases: Sometimes, we may internalise societal expectations without even realising it. Challenging our own biases can help us break free from limiting beliefs. These could be related to gender, race, disability or a range of different factors instilled in us as children.

  9. Take calculated risks: Pursuing success against societal expectations may require taking risks. However, it's important to take calculated risks, meaning you should consider the potential consequences and plan accordingly.

  10. Persevere and stay true to yourself: Remember that rising to success against societal expectations may not happen overnight. It's important to persevere and stay true to yourself, even in the face of obstacles.

Remember, it's okay to be different and to pursue your own path in life. Don't let societal expectations limit your potential or happiness. By following these tips, you can stay true to yourself and live a fulfilling life.

Conclusion Success is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing journey that involves setting goals, taking action, and learning from both successes and failures. Ultimately, know that success is an individualistic concept that varies depending on your values, priorities, and goals.

As for me? Yes I feel successful. I achieved that degree, along with a few post graduates, had a great career in schools and I now have a successful business.

However, my greatest successes have been my relationship with my husband, our 2 boys and designing our lives together.

Oh and we got the keys to our house in Spain yesterday!

Malarvilie is a former senior leader and history teacher. As an Education Consultant and Executive Coach she supports leadership development through InstituteLM recognised leadership and coaching skills courses. Contact her now if you'd like a complimentary 30 min coaching call to discuss some of the above. Email: Website:

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Great news about the house, Malarvilie! Send pics!

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